It feels like the question of Diversity has been either in the foreground, or at the very least, the background of our society for a number of years. Don’t worry, this isn’t a big political post, or a look at the apparent ‘white-washing’ taking place in Hollywood. To see my post addressing the divisive of these topics you can check out my post “Divided We Fall“.
As many of you know I have been writing and working on my own Graphic Novel series for a number of years and in the last year I have written more of the story down than I have ever managed to do in the past. But as I looked at my characters and the friends from throughout my life that the heroes were based on, I realized that of the current roster of 9 heroes, 8 were white and 1 was black. Honestly, I think this is just because of the culture I grew up in where most of the people around me and that I grew up with were predominantly white, and as a result when basing characters on people that translated over.
But diversity has been a hot button issue in Comics for a few years now, what was predominantly an industry geared towards males aged 12 and upwards was now being flooded with fans seeking to read about more that white, straight, male heroes. They wanted heroes of different races, different sexual orientations and even more female heroes.
This call for diversity has seen a number of changes taking place in comic books. In 2011 in the Ultimate Universe at marvel, Peter Parker died and his role as Spider-man was taken over by a half-Black, half-Hispanic teenager called Miles Morales.
When this was announced there was a mass outcry from fans that Peter was being replaced by Miles to simply pander to the growing cry for diversity in society and using an established name, in this case Spider-Man, to make a bigger impact. But since then Miles has become a vastly popular character, so much so that when Marvel destroyed the Ultimate universe last year they moved Mile to their main Continuity in order to keep the character alive.
This trend has continued in recent years with Marvel making changes to established characters and fans being in outrage crying, as they did with Miles, that Marvel was doing it just to get a bigger reaction with a known name. These included Sam Wilson, a black man, formerly known as Falcon taking over the mantle of Captain America from Steve Rogers. Jane Foster, a white woman and Thor’s longtime girlfriend, taking over as the role of Thor herself. And one of the original X-Men, Bobby Drake/Iceman’s younger, time displaced self (don’t ask, long story) being outed as Homosexual, and showing that this isn’t an on the spot change but rather that he has always been homosexual and has been keeping it secret all his life.
These are only a few examples of changes that have been taking place in comics as there has been many more and there are 2 trains of though on this, one being positive and for the change that is taking place in comics and one that is negative and thinking that Comics should not be messing with established characters.
For more interesting reads you can check out these posts’
With all of this going on in mainstream comics, is it then important as a writer and creator to include a more diverse cast of characters in my work? Will it suffer for not including more groups within it? If you are going to do this, then how do you do it naturally without making it a “pandering to the masses” move?
If I do make a change to my cast then I want it to feel like a natural change. I don’t want to change every character to a completely different skin color and nationality just to ensure a diverse team is represented. I want to make sure the characters personalities are still similar to how I originally intended to portray them while allowing me to also explore natural changes that will occur within them because of the cultural background that they will now have.
There was a great article that I can no longer find online, and it talked about some of the reasons that writers are scared to include racial diversity in their work is that they are scared of misrepresenting the culture that they are not part of. This is a prominent point in my thinking, as a white male I am afraid of misrepresenting any other culture out of cultural ignorance, or even worse, placing them in a stereotypical role and being unintentionally racist towards that culture.
Honestly, I think that if you feel that your story can benefit from the inclusion of other races then it is at least worth the attempt to include them. You may make a stereotypical or racial faux pas but it is better to attempt it, have it proof read and alter some of your story to better reflect the character than to not attempt it out of fear because you will learn and grow more through by taking the risk.
The same can be said, although isn’t said as much, about the a writer of a different gender misrepresenting the other gender. As a male writer I want to make sure that I flesh out and write strong female heroes alongside strong male heroes, who are all equally capable and flawed at the same time. The days of the typical damsel in distress are long gone and women are reading comics more than ever looking for strong female heroes which they can aspire to be like. As a man, there are a number of things that I will not understand off the bat about writing a female protagonist but, like with race, I think it is a risk that has to be taken, and hopefully proof-read and altered later, rather than putting out a book without a strong female presence in it.
What ways would you recommend that I should diversify my Super-Powered team?
What do you think about the change and increase in Diversity in Comic Books? Do you think writing a hero team needs, or even benefits, from a diverse team? Do you think strong female leads are important, or even necessary, in writing today? Do you think a team should be evenly mixed with both male and female heroes?
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